On hand for a celebration of Lily’s Garden initiatives were Debra Friedman, MD, MS, left, and Brianna Smith, MD, MS, (holding the plaque) and, from right, Larisa and Phillip Featherstone with their daughters Lily, Sophie and Sophia, and Carol and Ron Johnston. Photo by Susan Army.

Family’s gift will support pediatric cancer research

Published on July 6th, 2023 by Nancy Humphrey.

Lily Hensiek’s cancer diagnosis in 2008 has inspired three generations of her family to devote time and financial support to research and training in pediatric cancer. The family recently made a new $1 million commitment to endow the Lily’s Garden Discovery Researcher Fund at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The latest gift from Lily’s family — Larisa and Phillip Featherstone and Carol and Ron Johnston — supports fellows and early career investigators in pediatric cancer. The family lives in Franklin, Tennessee, and owns a workplace safety consulting firm, Johnston & Associates.

Support for fellows helps to set trainees on a course for a career of discovery and caring for young people with cancer. Early-career investigators often need interim funding to get to the next level on their research path.

“We are very grateful to the Featherstone and Johnston family for their unwavering generosity,” said Debra Friedman, MD, MS, director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and E. Bronson Ingram Chair in Pediatric Oncology.

“This support helps ensure senior fellows and other early-career investigators have the resources they need to conduct studies on emerging treatment options for young cancer patients.”

The gift from the family in honor of Lily, now 22 and a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina, is a continuation of their past giving to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, which totals $3 million. Lily was diagnosed with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was in second grade.

Larisa, who chairs the Monroe Carell Advisory Board, said the family’s most recent gift helps fill a need not currently being met to support doctors working on innovative ideas.

“I truly believe that these fresh, bright minds that are so passionate are taking cancer research to the next level. We are giving them that initial seed money to help take their ideas even further,” she said.